If last month was a mixed start to the season then May has been very mixed, very frustrating and very rewarding.
Fair to say that following my limited involvement in the Staffordshire Seniors trial game my right knee ‘blew up’ and it was good that we had no game the following week. Factor in the historic issues with my left knee and right hip and it was certainly a struggle (and a painful one at that) to get moving. Once moving things tended to loosen up, and with a lot of rehab, stretching and massage it made good progress, although was a long way from being OK, or even good enough to play really, but play I did and much to my surprise bowled 10 overs.
Ten good over at that for 30 runs, with two sixes the first of which should have been caught and a dropped catch. Batting 9 with 50+ required off 5 overs and two twelve year olds at 10 and 11 – and they are good cricketers but they are playing senior cricket to develop – was never going to be a option. Still I should have done better than a second ball zero and I was more than a tad angry with myself. It was a game we should have won and we certainly didn’t help ourselves chasing an achievable target by blocking 11 overs and putting ourselves well behind the initial run rate of 4 an over. Hopefully we will learn! Again we conceded far too many extras (29) putting yet more pressure on ourselves.
No nets (all month) as the focus was very much on nursing the knee(s) through the week in order to play at the weekend although the following game was very much a “thanks for turning up” as didn’t bat, didn’t ball and we easily won against my old club Caverswall.
A week with no game, and a lot of rehab on the knees and rather bizarrely a trapped nerve on right buttock and I was able to take to the field for the cup game against local rivals Wedgwood. An easy win. Didn’t bowl. Didn’t field particularly well in no small part because my trapped nerve was reacting, and not in a good way, to my first 50 since returning to playing.
Yes, all the hard work finally paid off with a somewhat impressive (and yes overdue) 57 off 48 balls with 7 fours. Batting at Number 9 we had a good score on the board when I got to the crease, but I batted well over an hour, put on 96 runs whilst at the crease, and didn’t give a chance. Add in running well (a 3 no less) and I was extremely relieved and pleased and it was great to receive the congratulations of team mates, club mates, spectators and a gracious opposition. Best of all though my parents were there which really did turn the old clock back! As did the decision to wear a cap not a helmet which I find far too hot and energy sapping.
I think it proves that I can play well with the tail, but I think it also highlights that bating 9 is far too low (a view shared by Coach Chris at Warwickshire who is adamant nothing lower than 6 and wants me to go and have a catch up net with him). The tail has to be long enough to bat with and I need to have enough time at the crease to have the chance to make a difference. Personally I would still bat me at 6 as have the ability to rebuild if we have had a poor start, or put the foot down if required.
Hopefully having the current highest score this year in the team, the best average, and the second most runs will help make my case but I am not holding my breath, nor getting ahead of myself as the season is still young. I am not really worried as this year, especially now I have damaged my ligaments, is all about getting more experience and fixing the body ready for next year when I hope to play regularly with Staffordshire Seniors and to do so I am in no doubts that I will need to be batting higher than 9 for a development team and bowing regularly. I will also need to think about trying to play on a Saturday rather than a Sunday in order to give myself an extra recovery day if playing on the Tuesday.
So from a personal level I am content: I have more confidence now in my technique, fitness (despite the injury) and mental approach, and my bowling is certainly competent and I think would stand up against more experienced players. I will monitor playing time and be realistic about next year. With luck I have quite a few years left to play so I do need to look out for myself which is a little ironic as talking to a number of senior players from a variety of clubs I am sensing an emerging pattern: there are clubs which develop juniors and clubs that concentrate on senior cricket and encourage other clubs juniors to join them. This is somewhat inevitable and very similar to football. My nagging concern is that if clubs live in denial of this they will put a lot of hard work in and then if they can’t offer the juniors a high quality of senior cricket they (or possibly more accurately their parents who have invested a lot of time and money into them) will go to clubs offering top level cricket. I think this is a genuine ‘risk’ especially when so many parents I meet at games have no played the game themselves so perhaps won’t have the same approach as those parents who have children playing at ‘their’ club.
Maybe mentoring the parents is worth considering or building relationships between clubs and having a more formal ‘feeder’ relationship. Maybe the league need to change their rules and let a player play for one club on a Sunday and another on a Sunday so players from Club A can progress to play at Club B, but still turn out for Club A on a Sunday and help develop the next cohort of juniors and put something back into the club that developed them.
I mentioned this to a couple of people from the ECB in various meetings this month. Can’t say if it went down well as when your head is in the sand it is difficult to hear (I assume) and you are left wondering which end you are talking to but with club cricket numbers falling every season and many clubs having to make up teams from the extreme ends of the normalisation curve something surely needs to be done, and soon.
For now though the focus is on rehabilitation of knee. It is getting better but there are signs of series damage so I will take it week by week, stay out of nets still, and if not much better by end of month will need to consider month off or even rest of season.
And finally some numbers: season to date batting (all games) 97 runs at an average of 48.5 with a strike rate of 111. For Barlaston 73 runs at an average of 36.5 with a strike rate of 101. Bowling 15 overs, no wickets, 56 runs.